Friday, July 29, 2011

Do shoes help us learn?

This week the NZ Herald has capitalised on the school holidays to run a series of articles about schools providing breakfast for children aged 5-12 yrs of age and the paper informs us that numbers of kiwi kids attend school with no breakfast. They also inform us that breakfast is necessary for learning to occur.

In the same week we have had agitation provoked by the media about schools stating that access to technology is necessary for students to learn.

Various social media have picked up on this as well as radio and television.  I was intrigued to see a mention of the Manaiakalani project on Google+  provoke this comment from someone:

Hmmm. I live 200m from pt England school. First reaction is to witter on about the kids needing shoes before laptops... Or for the dairy across the road to stop selling legal pot substitutes.... (more online)

This has got me thinking about shoes.  When did the wearing, or not, of shoes in New Zealand schools become an indicator of anything, let alone students learning?

And for a 'showing my age' statement; 
"I didn't wear shoes to school in the primary school years and I turned out ok!" Actually, I did when it was frosty. My mother sent me out the door with footwear on most days, but it quickly went into my school bag.  Things changed at high school when shoes became a compulsory part of the school uniform, but barefoot and carefree was a common kiwi experience in primary school. What was your experience with shoes and school, and how do you think they influence student learning?

Below is a quick survey to find out about wearing shoes at school - and I would love to hear  more of your story through the comments below....

Friday, July 22, 2011

Teacher Dashboard + Google Apps for Education

We have been using Google Apps for Education at Pt England School for 3 years now. Russell signed us up when we were at the GooglePlex in California in 2008 - how's that for sitting right next to the help desk!

We began our implementation in a leisurely fashion, bringing onboard those who always put their hand up for new things first and then supporting the rest of the team to start using it.  But it was when the students became Google Apps users that the fun began because everyone was so keen. And the teacher's Google Docs home pages were swamped with documents shared by eager students.

We were very fortunate to meet up with Jan Zawadzki early in this journey and hear about Teacher Dashboard which his company, Hapara, was designing as an add on to Google Apps.  And we were quite vocal in telling him our ideas about how it could be improved to make our teaching lives easier! We get so many questions about it from other educators that we finally got round to putting this video together to give a Pt England School perspective on how we are using Teacher Dashboard.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

iPads Everywhere

That's right - at ISTE11 it seemed that everywhere you turned everyone was either using an iPad or running a session on them or talking about how they would be rolling them out in their schools in August (which crazily enough is the new year in the northern hemisphere) as their 1:1 device.

One of the interesting perspectives was that something that was deemed too expensive for our parents to afford (see video below) has become the 'cheap' option for  schools facing budget cuts and parents wanting to reduce spending from laptop programmes in affluent areas of society.

There was no doubt that the iPad is a magnificent learning tool, or as Gary Stager said in one session I attended, "The perfect accessory to a MacBook".  But our years of podcasting showed when Wes Fryer demonstrated a reason why every school needs iPads.  He approached Russell for an interview at the Google Party!  A crowded, dark, noisy room and was adamant that his iPad was equal to the task of an interview.  Wes collared a passer-by to hold his iPad (to video record) and with his highly directional iRig mic he conducted the interview you can hear very clearly below.

Imagine how this would change podcasting in the classroom if you had this set-up?  No longer would you need a quiet room, or a laptop/computer.  Watch this space - I think we are about to acquire an iPad kit.....

Monday, July 11, 2011

1:1 Programmes: Here, There and Beyond

The panel presentation I was part of at ISTE was pulled together entirely online, with all the participants living Here (Pennsylvania), There (California), and Beyond (New Zealand).  the differences in the schools represented went far beyond geography; there was huge variation in the approaches to setting up 1:1, school expectations, pedagogy, student socio-economic levels, teacher expectations, preparedness for 1:1 etc.

Bonnie Marks chaired the panel and we each presented an overview of how our schools were implementing 1:1 and the impact it has made on learning and teaching so far.

This Google presentation (below) was worked on in our own time zones and is what we each spoke to when it was our turn to present.

The panel responses to a question about some of best things that've come out of moving to 1:1...
  • Stakeholder involvement, in particular parents
  • Huge kid engagement across the board. Working at more times of day.
  • Where teachers used it well there was significant lift in outcomes (but not all used it well).
  • Secondary kids are feeling much more self directed. Completing course work more quickly.
  • Need buy in from students. In some schools students only wanted laptops if everyone was doing it (didn't want to be a 'geek' group!)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hyperstudio just keeps getting better

One of highlights of ISTE always is getting a chance to catch up with Roger Wagner and the team around Hyperstudio. In the enormous trade hall at this conference it is very rare to find the actual developers of products sitting at a booth talking to people and gathering feedback, so Hyperstudio is the exception.

The standout developments I saw demonstrated at the Hyperstudio Booth this year were:

Green screen improvements - you have always been able to do green screen from years back, but the ability to use built in cameras and create green screen movies directly onto the card you are working on is great.

HTML5 - No plug ins necessary for online browsers (Chrome, Firefox, IE, IOS) means that finally it will be worth publishing stacks online.  Until now there has been a plugin for Safari, but we have found it a barrier for sharing stacks with non-techie people who are not confident about installing plugins.

Realtime Information and collaboration with Google Docs - this means that a Google Doc can be embedded inside a Card on Hyperstudio.  People are going to love the ability to finally have images, movies etc attached to Google Forms (currently you can't do this in Google Forms) to create more meaningful tests and quizzes.

Embedding any HTML code in a card - this means your voicethreads, animates, vimeos etc can be embedded in Hyperstudio.

The last three developments are still in Beta, but they will be a free upgrade for anyone who has a current license.

I just wish there was a Linux version so our Manaiakalani kids could use it on their netbooks!

New perspectives of Philadelphia

This is my second ISTE at Philadelphia, the first being back in 2005 when it was still the NECC.  I wasn't that keen on going back to Philly as the first time there I had found it a pretty unfriendly and unhelpful city compared to the other US cities I have visited over the years.

Well, in 2011 I got to experience it from a wheelchair and it was amazing! I broke my foot 10 days before the conference and we decided to go ahead with our travel plans anyway. People could not have been more warm, friendly and helpful in Philadelphia. From the cabs (we took dozens of those) to the hotel staff to the cafes to the conference centre - folk went out of their way to be kind.  Opening doors, offering to fetch and carry, and always offering friendly greetings.

The greetings. Seems like every second person who went past would have a quip:

"What does the other fellow look like?"

"I'd hate to see the other woman"

"What did he DO to you?" - looking at my faithful driver.

And sitting parked while my driver was scouting for supplies (or just taking a break) I met heaps of new and interesting people who took time to stop for a chat.

But I also had a new appreciation of a conference from the perspective of a wheelchair.  I saw endless table/counter edges, but frustratingly couldn't see what was on them!  Same in Reading Terminal Market - a place I had fond memories of from my previous visit - you really can't see the food on display from wheelchair height. When parked in a lecture theatre it was surprising how many people then came and stood in front obscuring the view. And I didn't get to take photos the same this time. Getting out the camera was often just one thing too many. I discovered collecting schwag is for the able bodied - it doesn't get offered to people dwelling below eye height, and if you can't see it you can't help yourself the same. But the name badges everyone wears on lanyards were at the right height to read this time!

No trip to the USA is complete without a bathroom anecdote or two!  I have some beauties from this experience, but have decided that discretion is the better part of valour this time round - regretfully. Suffice it to say that doubling the size of the cubicle and putting in a handrail does not magically make a stall 'accessible' to a person struggling to walk!

I hope that the impact of my wheelchair and crutches sabbatical has made me more empathetic to others in similar situations.

The other perspective that was so different this time round was brought about by social networking.  In 2005 social networking was in its infancy, so the conference felt like 20,000 strangers walking around who may have known the small group they came with but no-one else.  Six years later it was more like a big reunion of 20,000 people. Everywhere you went there were people bumping into old friends and people they had only met online before this week.  I guess it may not have been like that for half the attendees, but the difference for the other half was noticeable.

QR Codes

Last year at ISTE there was a lot of talk about QR codes.  This year, there wasn't so much talk - they simply were everywhere as a normal part of conference life.

In most sessions (including my own) the presenters displayed QR codes for their links to their online notes.  Most people had a blend of QR and print data on their handouts and business cards, but there were a good number who only used QR.

Teachers from Pt England School sent me off to ISTE with a big bunch of cards to give out with QRs to their class blogs.  I distributed these in the two sessions I presented at, so time will tell whether people visit their blogs as a result.

I discovered the downside to QR though.  I was determined not to use the data plan on my phone this time and end up with a large phone bill.  So I was reluctant to use the QR reader on my iPhone.  I began looking for a reader for my MacBook, so at least I could access the online notes and information when people only gave out QRs.

After some research I found there is not a lot of choice out there, and I ended up downloading an App called - QR Reader !  It requires you to also have Adobe Air installed and uses the camera built into your Macbook.  It does the job ok, but is a lot more fussy than an iPhone about getting the angle right when it scans.   I am also looking at something called QuickMark in the Apps store, but it costs $5.29 so is not something we will be putting on the classroom iMacs.

We would be very interested if someone has a better App to suggest - must work on an iMac and or MacBook.  Also looking for a good Linux reader for our netbooks.